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‘There’s always another way’: Student Government leaders plan for successful school year

Over the summer, Patrick Lee, Sofie Stitt, Nicole Baumann and the rest of Notre Dame Student Government were hard at work for the student body. 

Lee, the student body president, explained that he stayed in South Bend to plan for the year and build relationships with administrators, other staff members and cabinet directors. 

“I never count the hours, so it’s hard to tabulate, but [my work] was a lot of meeting with administrators, trying to build relationships and paving the way for our initiatives to follow. I think, also, the great majority of the time was spent meeting with Nicole and our directors,” Lee said. 

Baumann, the chief of staff, said she came back to the University for the whole month of August to help Lee with planning and organization for the coming school year after spending the first part of the summer in Los Angeles working with non-profit organizations. 

“With Patrick, that was a lot of strategizing for the year,” she said. 

Stitt, the vice president, was in Chicago completing a finance internship, but she said she contributed to the summer work virtually. 

Lee said the 17 department directors each have five to fine goals for the year, which are outlined on the Student Government progress tracker. The website is set up so interested students can click on each department and scroll through all of the goals. Lee said more information can be found by contacting each department. 

Lee explained that one of the main goals of the progress tracker is to combat voter apathy. 

“The number one thing that we encountered in our election was voter apathy. A lot of times, people don’t know what Student Government is and what we do,” he said. “Now, we have made sure that if anybody ever asks that question, they can reference this extensive guide and immediately know what’s going on.”

Lee, Stitt and Baumann all expressed excitement about the new progress tracker, saying it will help keep the cabinet on track. 

“We think that the progress tracker goes a long way for both accountability and transparency, which are really two of our highest values,” Lee said. 

Baumann, who described the tracker as a “holistic view,” also noted that the tracker and goals may change throughout the year. 

“[The executive cabinet members] are always looking for new ideas from their department chairs, as well as from the student body,” she said. 

Currently, the organization has finished 15 out of the 90 goals outlined, making them 16.5% of the way to completion. 

Many of the completed projects were oriented toward new student engagement, such as “Football 101” for international students and “Flick on the Field” at the end of the first week of classes. 

Two major improvements to student life occurred in the residence and dining halls. 

Safety after parietals was a massive change to Notre Dame student life that was implemented this fall after three years in the works. The final push was brought about by Lane Obringer, director of gender relations, Title IX and women’s initiatives.

The new rules state that if a student feels unsafe in a dorm environment past parietals, they can leave without fear of repercussions, Baumann said. 

Lee said he was happy about finishing a movement started by previous departments and about how they collaborated with administrators. 

“Certainly credit to the previous administrations, but it’s been our approach since we took office that the administrators that we worked with on safety after parietals, and as well as most administrators, actually share goals with our organization,” Lee explained. “We approached those conversations at first with a cooperative mindset, as opposed to an adversarial mindset.”

Stitt emphasized that, although the cabinet has completed the initiative, they will continue to promote those resources to the student body. 

Another one of the campaign’s main goals was to bring back healthier options for students in dining halls. The cabinet accomplished this by not only bringing back vegan and vegetarian options for every meal and carving stations on Thursday, but also by changing the dining hall hours to be open until 8 p.m. on weekends. 

Coming up, Baumann said she is excited about bringing back the Sustainability Cup, Race Relations Week in October and the suicide memorial prayer service, among various other programs in the works. 

Some of the goals for the cabinet won’t be completed until the end of their term, such as Pridefest 2023 and Back the Bend.

Baumann noted that this year, Back the Bend will hopefully be a national endeavor, with alumni clubs joining throughout the country. 

The leadership team also said they are working toward better communication in the coming year. They will start to implement better social media engagement and a podcast called “Pod, Country, Notre Dame.”

Stitt said they encourage interested students, especially first-years and transfers, to get involved in Student Government by coming to their weekly coffee chats and reaching out to department directors. 

“We’re just really excited for [everyone] to be here. We cannot wait to serve them this year,” Stitt said. “We really just encourage [new students] to get involved on campus, whether that’s with student government or with clubs or intramural sports or in the dorm.”

Lee, echoing Stitt’s sentiment, called for any interested students to bring them ideas. 

“I think I can speak for the three of us in saying there’s really nothing that we wouldn’t do for the student body,” Lee said. “If anybody wants to see anything or they have any ideas, come chat and we’ll make it happen.”

Contact Bella Laufenberg at ilaufenb@nd.edu.

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‘GED to Ph.D.’: Community mourns death of graduate student

“She got a license plate that said ‘GED to Ph.D.,’” Jon Tyler said of his late wife Bella. “[The phrase] would remind her to get that Ph.D., and that it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”

Gabriella (Bella) Tyler, a graduate student in David Hyde’s lab, died on Sept. 4, 2022. Bella, 33, was in her third year of a Ph.D. program in the department of biological sciences at the University of Notre Dame. 

Untraditional and unstoppable

Bella was an untraditional student in every sense of the word, Jon said. He explained that Bella was homeless at 15 and went through the foster care system. He said she worked hard for everything she achieved. 

“Nothing was handed to her, nothing. She fought, scrapped, and clawed. She tried to excel in everything she put her mind to,” Jon said. “She tried to light up every room she was in because she knew how it was when someone didn’t pay attention to her or underestimated her.”

After getting her GED in 2012, Bella pursued an undergraduate degree at Georgia Gwinnett College where she lived in Lawrenceville, Georgia, with her husband. 

Jon explained that Bella knew she would pursue a career in the sciences after going to just one biology class at Gwinnett. 

“She came back home [after class] and told me ‘I found out what I want to do.’ And I said, ‘What are you talking about? Nobody finds out what they want to do this young,” he said. “She said ‘I haven’t decided what I wanted to do yet, but I know it is going to be science.’”

Bella and Jon had a successful marriage of more than eight years after meeting through an online dating platform, Jon said. 

“Believe it or not, the first 30 days didn’t go so well. She ghosted me,” Jon said jokingly. “I still kept on pursuing her and trying to get to know her, and after about six months of talking, we ended up going on our first date.”

A step in the right direction

Jon described the moment Bella got into Notre Dame’s graduate program as surreal and explained that she applied on a whim because of an application waiver she had received. 

“She was a little hesitant on putting in her application because, you know, Notre Dame is a prestigious school, but she did it,” he said. “She was floored that the University of Notre Dame would consider her.”

Jon said he had never doubted what his wife was capable of. 

“I was so happy for her, and I’ve always believed that she could do it,” he said. “No doubt in my mind that she could reach this, and she did.”

At Notre Dame, Bella was a brilliant student and researcher, David Hyde said. Hyde, a professor of biological sciences, runs the lab where Bella was working on her Ph.D. project. 

Hyde said Bella’s project was aiming to look at the degenerative nature of Parkinson’s disease. Her project specifically looked at dopaminergic neurons — cells designed to respond to and send dopamine in the brain —  in a zebrafish model of the disease. 

“[She] developed this project on her own to look at Parkinson’s disease and look at the regeneration of a specific type of neuron, dopaminergic neurons,” he explained. “She loved the project because it had a clear application to human disease.”

Hyde said he loved working with Bella because of her mature mindset, perseverance in the lab and clear goals. 

“Bella was loved by everybody in the lab,” he said. 

Hyde said he mourns the loss of such a talented scientist and mentor, especially for the students who didn’t know her yet. He explained that Bella wanted to use her Ph.D. to teach other nontraditional students and to show that everyone belongs in science. 

“She [wanted to] go to a school where she could impact nontraditional students,” he said. “All those students are now going to have this void that they don’t know that it’s a void, but they would have had an opportunity to be inspired by somebody who’s really talented and very passionate.”

Big (and little) changes

Bella and Jon recently welcomed a new addition to their lives: a daughter Matilda Tyler. Jon said Matilda, now five months old, was the missing piece in Bella’s life. 

From left to right, Bella Tyler, her husband Jon and daughter Matilda Tyler.
From left to right, Bella Tyler, her husband Jon and daughter Matilda Tyler. Courtesy of Jon Tyler.

“She always wanted to be a mother,” he said. “We always talked about how she wanted her babies to grow up and love science just as much as she did. She couldn’t wait to take our little baby to school.”

Hyde said he noticed a change in Bella’s demeanor when she became a mother. 

“Being a parent just changes 99% of the people in a very positive way. I mean, their whole demeanor on life improves,” he explained. “There’s a lot of responsibility going on, and she just embraced all of it in a positive way.”

Jon said he hoped his daughter will know her mother’s kindness. 

“She did [everything] with kindness. She never treated anybody different,” he said. “Even when other people seem ugly, she always saw the best in everybody.”

Another recent event in Bella’s life was her award from the Pat Tillman Foundation, a scholarship fund for veterans and spouses of veterans who have displayed impactful leadership ability in their fields. Bella was a part of the 2022 class of scholars, which was announced in June 2022. 

As part of her award, Bella and her family, including new daughter Matilda, traveled to Chicago in July to take part in a national leadership conference. Pat Tillman CEO, Dan Futrell, was part of the team that welcomed her into the program. 

Futrell said he and Bella bonded over their shared backgrounds at the conference, and he got to know her generous nature. 

“In July, she and I connected over a brief conversation about foster care as part of our lives and how we can grow from that and continue to serve others who are still in that system and try to also provide a positive example,” Futrell said. 

Futrell expressed his deepest sympathies for the loss of Bella and said he hoped to honor her in small part by inspiring her daughter’s future in education. 

In her honor

In Bella’s memory, Jon said he hopes people will learn her story and take inspiration from it. 

“What she would want in her honor is for me to continue to touch people the way she did. Life is too short to be negative and mean,” he said. “We always had the philosophy, treat the janitor the same way you treat the principal.”

When asked what he will remember most about Bella, Jon laughed. 

“Her spirit,” he said. “You could never, ever catch her on a bad time, especially with her mind. She was so smart, beautiful and was passionate about everything.”

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Futrell’s future wishes. The Observer regrets this error.

Contact Bella Laufenberg at ilaufenb@nd.edu.

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‘Objects in the Rearview Mirror’: The story behind the first women at the University

When Deborah Dell, known to her loved ones as Debi, arrived at the University of Notre Dame in 1972 with the first cohort of women, she entered with a sharp mind and a lot of determination. 

Now, almost exactly 50 years later, Dell is publishing a book, “Objects in the Rearview Mirror: A Social History of Coeducation under the Dome.” The story took shape over the span of 20 years and with the help of more than 150 contributors who were impacted by the decision to implement coeducation. 

The first years – inspiration and roadblocks

Sitting at the desk of her Morris Inn hotel room, Dell looked at a blank page. 

“Was I the right person to be doing this?” she wondered. 

Dell lived in Breen-Phillips Hall, Walsh Hall and Lyons Hall during her time on campus. She admitted that her circle of friends was small and stuck to themselves most of the time. 

“Books like this should be written by somebody who was important,” she explained her hesitation. 

She was in the midst of a lull in motivation. Dell said she came back to Notre Dame to get inspired. 

“I’m in the hotel room, and I’ve just been to the library to get some stuff out of the archives and I’m struggling,” she said. “It’s like I hear Father Hesburgh, saying ‘Debi, put your faith in the Holy Spirit and His mother, and stop thinking so hard and just trust.’”

Dell said she started brainstorming and researching for this book in 2000 and wrote a couple drafts with a few of her friends contributing in 2001, 2006 and 2011. Her trip to the Morris Inn was during the second draft in 2006. 

“[This book] was a long time coming. That’s an understatement,” she quipped. “I think the only book that took longer was the Bible.”

Debi and Darlene — missed connections and missing pieces

Darlene Connelly, class of 1977, was Dell’s right-hand woman during the second half of the project. She was also Dell’s neighbor on the first floor of Breen-Phillips Hall in 1977 — unbeknownst to either of them until a classmate introduced them a few years ago. 

“Darlene — we lived in the same hall, and I didn’t know her!” Dell said. “It was just the perfect timing and the perfect marriage as far as her approach to things and my approach. We just complemented each other so well.”

Connelly said she was introduced to Dell because she was also thinking of writing a book about her experiences. Connelly’s inspiration came in the form of a mentor, Fr. Tom Tallarida. 

Connelly explained that she had a long friendship with Tallarida throughout her time as an undergraduate and that she maintained contact with him as an adult. 

“We stayed in touch over the years. One year, I think it was 1992, he sent me a letter. He pleaded with me to write the real story about coeducation in those early years at Notre Dame,” she said. 

Connelly said she forgot about that plea until one Christmas when she decided to pay Tallarida a visit. A few days before her plans, Connelly said she got a letter from Tallarida’s niece that he had passed away. 

“I carried Catholic guilt,” she said. “I never got to it. I never got around to it, and I am so sorry, so sorry that I don’t know what the story was that he wanted to tell.”

Dell said Connelly not only brought her expertise to the project, but also the contributions of the women of the class of 1977. 

As Dell hosted mixers for her classmates in South Bend before home football games, word about the project got out, and men started chiming in. The men of the classes of 1976 and 1977 were soon added to the list of the writing process contributors.

Around that time, Dell said she started gathering information about the second generation of women at the University — what had changed and what had not. This was done with the help of Emily Weisbacker. 

Dell also mentioned she believed it was important to include what was going on at Notre Dame’s peer institutions and in the nation at the same time. 

“It was very important to me to also make sure that it wasn’t just the Notre Dame story. We looked at Yale and Princeton, and we looked at what was happening in the culture of the United States during the 70s,” she said. 

Dell said she finally felt ready to write the book once she had collected the experiences of the women and men of the first five years of coeducation, the second generation of women at the University and the historical context for the story.

“So now we had the women who went through it, the men who went through it and then the second generation that was benefiting. [They] were able to tell me about the things that hadn’t changed in 30 or 40 years,” she explained. “[The book] really became so much bigger than the original concept because of the delay that took place.”

Those who went without mention — early women’s athletics 

When the girls first arrived on campus, nothing was set up for them, Dell explained. Other than two hastily renovated dorms, the first few classes of women at Notre Dame had to fashion everything themselves. This included clubs, policy groups, information sharing networks and sports. 

Ron Skrabacz, class of 1976, oversaw the research and writing of the chapters on early women’s athletics. 

Skrabacz, who was only participated in interhall sports during his time on campus, was recruited to write the section because of his work as a sports writer. He wrote for the Daily Herald — a newspaper covering the Chicago suburbs — as a sports columnist for 20 years. 

Skrabacz got involved with the project when he was at Dell’s South Bend house on one Friday night before a football game. 

“Debi is a very brilliant woman, but you can put in a thimble what she knew about sports,” he joked. “She knew it was critical that sports be covered.”

Skrabacz explained that he wrote about the general atmosphere of sports during his time at the University and specifically what the women went through to start their varsity sports. 

Luckily, Skrabacz said his work would not have been possible without the research of Anne Dilenschneider and Jane Lammers. 

The two women were at a 30-year reunion of coeducation when they were shown a video about women’s athletics. Skrabacz explained that Dilenschneider and Lammers were upset that the video did not show the early years or how the women made the programs that today yield national championships.

Lammers and Dilenschneider then started researching. They made posters and sought out connections. The women complied “a boatload” of material, which they turned over to Skrabacz.

“All I did was the easy part. I took all their information, summarized it and turned it into a story,” he said. 

Other than their inclusion in the book, over 250 women who participated in the early building stages of each varsity sport will be memorialized with honorary monograms during a home football game the weekend of Oct. 21 to 23. 

Looking back and looking forward

“Objects” came out Sept. 1 and is now available for order at Barnes & Noble. There are two versions: a paperback and a special edition hardcover.

“We’re limiting the hardcover edition to 365 copies to commemorate and honor the 365 first female undergraduates,” Dell said. “The first 365 hardcover books will have a special cover that commemorates that number.”

The Hammes Bookstore is hosting two book signing events for the new release Friday, Sept. 9 from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday, Oct. 14 from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. 

A labor of love of over 20 years, Dell said she hopes the book is a tribute to the strength of the Notre Dame family through good times and bad. 

“It was a time when men and women came together and there were struggles, but we found each other. We had the ability to get through some pretty weird tough times, and that’s the value of the Notre Dame family,” she said. “[The book is] a balanced picture: the good, the bad and the ugly.”

Bella Laufenberg

Contact Bella at ilaufenb@nd.edu

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‘Mickey was our leader’: Notre Dame journalism program benefactor dies after battle with cancer

“There isn’t a single story. I can’t give you a single instance that I would say sums him up for me,” Notre Dame graduate Anne Thompson said. “When I think of Mickey Gallivan, that’s what I think – commitment.”

Michael Dennis Gallivan, known to friends and family as Mickey, died Aug. 22, 2022, after a long battle with cancer. 

Thompson, chief environmental affairs correspondent for NBC News, said she knew Gallivan through her work on the advisory board of the Notre Dame John W. Gallivan journalism, ethics and democracy (JED) program.

The program, which students can take to earn a minor, bears the name of Mickey’s late father, John “Jack” W. Gallivan. Both Mickey and Jack Gallivan were graduates of Notre Dame in 1967 and 1937, respectively. 

As a gift to his father’s journalistic legacy with the Salt Lake Tribune, Mickey and other family members endowed the JED program with large financial gifts in 1999. He expressed that this endowment was meant to inspire young journalists. 

“For more than 60 years, Jack Gallivan has defined what journalistic excellence should be in the communities of America. He approaches his profession as a responsibility. Fairness, a pure heart, and rational leadership have been his life’s tools. His family hopes that by this endowment the John W. Gallivan Program in Journalism, Ethics & Democracy can inspire like-minded leaders in the world’s news media,” Mickey Gallivan said in a 1999 press release written by University spokesperson Dennis Brown. 

Brown said the University is thankful for the contributions made by Mickey to Notre Dame and to journalism. 

“The Notre Dame journalism program supported by Mr. Gallivan and his family has educated scores of students who are making a difference in the field and our country. The University community joins with his family and friends in mourning his passing while celebrating a life so very well lived,” he wrote in an email. 

The JED community within the University and beyond has expressed gratitude for Mickey’s continued presence in the program and sympathies for his loss. 

Jason Kelly, the interim director of the JED program, said he enjoys using the colloquial term “Gallivan program” to describe both Jack and Mickey’s contributions to the program. 

“The shorthand as we refer to it is the Gallivan Program because, for us, that means [Mickey’s] name is on it too. We’re thinking as much of Mickey as John, and that’s a testament to the impact he had,” Kelly said. “[Mickey] wasn’t someone who wanted a lot of credit for things.”

Although Kelly said he had only recently met Mickey, he explained how impactful his generosity and interest were to students. 

“The thing that really stands out [about Mickey] is just how he was just a really nice guy, really generous guy in every sense of the term,” Kelly said. “It was really important to him to stay involved and to stay up to date on what was happening. He loved hearing about what students were doing.”

Kelly also said he believed Mickey was a great role model for JED students. 

“He’s the kind of person that we all really aspire to be and certainly someone who represents what we want our students to become – a successful person, but also someone who’s contributing broadly to the community in valuable, beneficial ways and doing it with a lot of humility,” he said.

Thompson said the lasting impact Mickey made on her was his leadership style and commitment to everything he loved. 

“[Robert Schmuhl] led the advisory board, but certainly I always thought of Mickey as a leader of that board. He would not thump his chest or speak the loudest or speak the longest, but it was his passion and commitment that made him a leader in that group,” she explained.  

Thompson noted that working with Mickey inspired her to be a better journalist.

“[Mickey] could make me want to go out, go chase stories again,” she said. “If I was in a lull, he certainly had enthusiasm and passion, and when mine was waiting, just talking to him would inspire me.”

Robert Schmuhl, the founding director of the John W. Gallivan program, wrote an in memoriam remembrance of Mickey. In the piece, Schmuhl describes Mickey as “wise and merry.”

“Mickey’s personal commitment to Notre Dame’s Gallivan Program encompassed more than two decades. He served as an original — and continuing — member of the Advisory Board, faithfully participating in all the regular meetings. He brought wise, worldly suggestions to the discussions along with a smiling measure of Irish merriment,” Schmuhl said in the remembrance. 

Schmuhl wrote in an email to The Observer that Mickey Gallivan was an advocate for ethical journalism. 

“Mickey Gallivan understood the important role journalism plays in American democracy, and he became a champion of Notre Dame’s approach that puts ethical considerations central to all journalistic work,” Schmuhl said in an email. 

Mickey Gallivan will be laid to rest on Aug. 31, 2022, in his hometown of Salt Lake City, Utah.

Bella Laufenberg

Contact Bella at ilaufenb@nd.edu